1st August 2019

Tuscany

In The Maremma, the sound of cicadas singing in the trees above the pool house is the only sound interfering with the absolute peace and stillness of this remote part of Italy’s idyllic countryside.

Arguably, the least populated area of southern Tuscany, where the panorama stretches endlessly and thickly forested hills conceal hunting territory. Wild boar roam here; there are birds and beautiful coloured butterflies everywhere.

A 12th Century castle turned boutique hotel delivers on scenery and tranquillity. It offers three notable suites among its nine accommodations and a choice of two outdoor swimming pools.

Even though there is something utterly charming and relaxing here, unfortunately it needs to do far better in cuisine and service to earn a place in Nota Bene’s shortlist of best of best.

Becoming privatised with a fresh team of staff, including a top chef, might work. After all, with a helicopter at one’s disposal, its location means you can be in Porto Ercole in less than ten minutes and are within half an hour from Elba and the beautiful island of Giglio.

Doing the legwork, constantly critiquing and contextualising is a part of our mission; it’s what sets us apart. In this case, it was a ‘thumbs down’, demonstrating how vital it is for us to see and experience everything first hand. This is how we distinguish the great from the good or not so good. Above all, it is finding those unquestionable superlatives.

Continuing our journey through Tuscany took us north to Siena, south west again to Capalbia and Porto Ercole and finally Val d’Orcia before heading south to Rome to experience Rocco Forte’s latest hotel opening, Hotel de la Ville.

Even in mid-July, depending on altitude, it can get quite cool at night in rural Tuscany as the winds often blow especially through the Val d’Orcia. Be prepared and pack some warmer items of clothing – just in case. Or save the region for autumn when the colours of harvest are indelible against clear, crisp skies.

The UNESCO world heritage site, Val d’Orcia, presents a ravishing tapestry of undulating mountain backed hills in colours of ripened wheat against verdant green. The landscape is peppered with olive and wine groves, tall cypress trees and occasional hamlet. Notable hilltop towns such as Pienza, Montalcino and Montecchiello are steeped in history, waiting to be explored.

The main diet in this region is meat based accompanied by robust wines, which includes the prestigious Tignalello and Sasaccia varieties, the Nobile di Montepulciano competing with Brunello di Montalcino.

Stay in our favourite unique boutique hotel created out of an original hamlet, its seven residents sharing the immediate area and narrow access road. Engage with Executive Chef Giancarla and participate in her cookery school. Come here for hiking and mountain biking; or simply do little but relax, eat well and take a treatment in the beautiful spa.

Our favourite part of the Tuscan coast is the Argentario where, south of Porto Ercole, a recently opened private members beach club sets a new benchmark in hospitality, comfort and service attracting a young dolce vita-esque, mainly Italian clientele.

Southern Tuscany needs careful planning depending on one’s tastes and interests. Distances can be deceiving; hotel standards vary; many restaurants do not live up to their reputation and the more notable towns can be tourist jammed.

With careful curation by the Nota Bene team, it can be a magical and diverse experience. Especially with some time on the coast, private visits taking in art, culture and history to the renaissance cities of Florence and Siena; the drama of the Siena Palio; hiking in gorgeous countryside; hot air ballooning over the Val d’Orcia, wine tasting around Montalcino and Montepulciano.

Immerse yourself in the wonder that is Italy.

Contact Elizabeth Mowbray and find out about becoming a private client and make sure you experience only the best of the best.